CXXII - A Vida como ela é, by Nelson Rodrigues - Comments by André Bandeira

«Life as itself is», could well be the translation for the title of this collection of short stories by Nelson Rodrigues, probably the most important playright of Brazil, during the second half of the XXth Century. He was born in Recife, in the sub-equatorial Northeast, but it was in Rio, as a journalist, where he got most of his fame, and where he died, in 1980. The short stories are a masterpiece, both in sequence as in the pace of gathering critical mass. At the end of the first dozen, or so, one gets stricken, if not revolted, with the pessimistic layout, almost obscene, of the emotional and social wounds, and one hesitates in proceeding to the rest. Almost every story turns around love, sex and marriage (I would say in this order) and they are staged in the traditional Rio families from the suburbs, or the middle class which was moving up to the Copacabana waterfront, in the fifties. They have much of criminal chronicle, which was a job that the author himself, exerted, as a matter of fact, for many years, as a journalist. As he was confronted with a corpse, in a crime scene, probably in the first place, or at the same time as the forensic Police, his short stories have a scent of tragedy and we get addicted to them, as crime novels. Notwithstanding the weight of the North-american crime novel of that time, Nelson Rodrigues’s short stories don’t have the same aim of power rattle and moral cleansing which underpinned authors, such as Dashel Hammet. He is much more humble in his scope. It seems that, by the gathering of  almost identical sories, despite the variations in the plots, that he is proclaiming the doomsday of family and marriage, as institutions inherently contradictory with the hearts and minds of the Rio’s society of that time. In a way, he implodes the building of society, behind the façade and, thereby, he protects a society which was probably at the disposal of the rest of the world’s wildest dreams and perversions. Death very often plays the role of liberation in the intricate web of patriarchalism, coarseness and irony which sets the scene in society, as it did, probably, in the long flow of slavery, immigration and indian mutilation in brazilian History. Nelson Rodrigues is not advocating death, as other latin-americans  novelists could do, because he has a touch of irony and awe, which are able to disarm almost any conclusion jumping. But he seems resolved to leave an almost black-african Magic of bitterness, which sets the night on fire, and which could almost lead him to repeat the same themes into eternity. That is why it is said that theater began by being a ritual and it stayed so, even in the most seductive brazilian soap-operas. In conclusion, a quest: did Nelson Rodrigues believe that there was a guise of love – I mean physical and spiritual love, merged in one and only «natural love»-- which endures all social formats and follows its path, no matter the consequences, as a vital imprint? In that case, theater, both in art, as well as in political engineering, would be the only way of keeping our bodies in peace, away of the human sacrifice of the tribe.

No comments: